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Ha-ha-Hanukkah! Jewish comedians host a ‘Chanukah-stravaganza’

Shake, shake, shake, menorah!: Jewish comediennes Lana Schwartz and Ilana Rubin will celebrate the Festival of Lights with the “Chanukahstravaganza” comedy night on Dec. 12 at Union Hall in Park Slope.
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It’s a Jewish festival of laughs.

Two Jewish comediennes will open the first night of Hanukkah with a gift of laughter. The second annual “Chanukahst­ravaganza: Night of a Thousand Jews” on Dec. 12 at Union Hall in Park Slope, will feature 10 Jewish performers cracking jokes and singing songs about dreidels, inexhaustible oils, and the proper spelling of “Hanukkah” — or possibly “Chanukah.” The night was inspired, in part, because its creators were tired of the Festival of Lights being outshone by Christmas trees and Rudolph’s nose, said one of the founders.

“I do really love Christmas, I’m a big Christmas fan, but I also love Hanukkah, and it kind of always upset me that Hanukkah doesn’t get as much shine as Christmas does,” said Lana Schwartz, who lives in Williamsburg.

Schwartz and her Queens-based comedy-writing partner, Ilana Rubin, started working on the inaugural show just after the 2016 election, when anti-Semitic incidents were on the rise.

“We started putting together the show not too long after the election, and in the midst of everything going on — all the hate and fear — it felt really exciting to say, ‘We’re unapologetically proud of our faith and heritage,’ ” Schwartz said.

The show offered a release of tension and a place for laughs, with songs, stories, and a PowerPoint presentation on “the forgotten heroes of Hanukkah.” This year, the duo have tried to recruit performers who can elicit laughs in a variety of ways, according to Rubin.

“Everybody really brings their own spin to things, and we work to get the variety,” she said.

This year’s show will feature the duo performing and hosting, some performers from last year’s show, and some new acts, including Upright Citizens Brigade performers Yoni Lotan and Sam Reece, along with comedy video star Anna Roisman.

And though the focus is on a Jewish holiday, Gentile audiences need not feel blasphemous for attending. Everyone will be able to appreciate the jokes, said the show’s hosts, even if they can’t tell a mitzvah from a matzoh.

“At the end of the day, you’re still seeing some of the funniest, best comedians in the city,” Schwartz said. “It’s something that you can still enjoy.”

The event will also raise cash for the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that fights anti-Semitism. But Rubin said the primary goal is to make people laugh during difficult times.

“This is a holiday show, we want to talk about how happy this holiday makes us — it does a good job of lightening the mood,” Rubin said.

“Chanukahst­ravaganza: Night of a Thousand Jews” at Union Hall (702 Union St. between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Park Slope, www.unionhallny.com). Dec. 12 at 8 pm. $10 ($8 in advance).

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 5:51 pm, July 9, 2018
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